Yootha Joyce (August 20, 1927 - August 24, 1980) was a British actress born in South London to musical parents. In 1958 she married the actor, Glynn Edwards - best known for playing Dave the landlord in Minder - but the marriage ended in divorce in 1968. It was through Edwards that she first came to prominence in the renowned Joan Littlewood Theatre Group, going on to make her film debut in 1962 in Sparrows Can't Sing.
In the 1960s and 1970s, she became a familiar face in many one-off sitcom roles and supporting parts in films, with her first main recurring role being Miss Argyll in three series of Me Mammy (1968-71). But it wasn't until 1973 that she acquired a starring role, when she was cast as man-hungry Mildred Roper, wife of landlord George, in the innovative sitcom Man About The House, which was to prove a massive hit with viewers. This series ran until 1976 and told the story of two young women and a young man sharing the Ropers' upstairs flat, and the sexual tension and misunderstandings such living arrangements provide.
When the series reached a natural end, a spin-off was written for the Ropers, and George and Mildred first aired in 1976. The couple were seen moving from the London house which they'd owned in the previous programme and into a suburban semi-detached property. Much of the new series centred on Mildred's desire to better herself in her new surroundings, but always being thwarted, usually unwittingly, by her lifeskill-lacking husband's desire for a quiet life.
A feature film was made of George And Mildred in 1980, but this was to be Joyce's last work. A sixth, and final, series of George and Mildred was due to be recorded later that year, but Yootha Joyce died, in hospital, of liver failure four days after her 53rd birthday on 24th August, 1980, following a long battle with alcoholism. The actor Brian Murphy, who played her TV/screen husband, George Roper, was at her bedside.
At the inquest into her death, it was revealed that she had been drinking upwards of half a bottle of brandy a day for ten years, and that she had, in the words of her lawyer, Mario Uziell-Hamilton, become a victim of her own success and the thought of being typecast as Mildred Roper┬╣. In the 2001 tribute documentary entitled The Unforgettable Yootha Joyce, friends also revealed how she had become depressed at her failure to find another long-term partner following her divorce. She made her last television appearance, posthumously, on Max, Max Bygraves' variety show, on 14th January, 1981.
In 1986, a photograph of Yootha Joyce adorned the sleeve of Ask, a single released by British band The Smiths.
┬╣ The Times, September 16, 1980